William Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing

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An Introduction to William Shakespeare


The article „Much Ado about Shakespeare“, by Chris Arnot and Heither Neill published Tuesday 6 February 2007 in „The Guardian“ approaches numerous views given on Shakespeare’s relevance in class today.

First of all Arnot and Neill question the level of knowledge children need to understand Shakespeare and search for a possibility to make pupils understand him. “ Performances and podcasts could just do the trick” (ll.1-2).

This leads into a long discussion. Several experts try to convey their point of view in order to stress this new method of learning.

Micheal Wood is one of them. His own experiences with Shakespeare as a youngster in the early’ 1960s changed his life (see ll.1-5). This “fantastic (…) experience” (l.8) convinced him to join the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and write a book about the bard (see ll.6-8). “In Search of Shakespeare” (l.6) is not only the title of his new book, but it also represents the idea of the RSC’s “Teaching Shakespeare: Time for Change’ Campaign” (see ll.8-10).

Why is Shakespeare still relevant in schools and why don’t we just “junk” (l.14) him? Wood tries to approach these questions and despite the language difficulties defends Shakespeare’s work (see ll.11-15). He points out that Shakespeare was a highly influenced and driven man and his plays represent this wide range of topics perfectly.

Therefore his plays offer perfect “material to explore ideas” (ll.20-21) and topics to discuss in class.

Sarah Lewis, a teacher at Bampton Primary School in Devon, is also aware of Shakespeare’s importance. In her opinion older pupils cause children’s prejudices and it is her aim to destroy this barrier. After all Shakespeare offers a lot of possibilities and every child can “shine” (l.25).

The prerequisites are well-trained teachers that have had, for example, “some specialist drama training” (l.27).

Jacqui O’Hanlon, the RSC’s head of professional development, shares her ideas and helps teachers to “dismantle” (l.29) plays in order to prepare them for class (see ll.28-31). More classrooms should enjoy the benefits of Shakespeare. Maria Evans, the RSC’s director of learning, is responsible for ensuring a nation wide change and supports DFES.

Shakespeare’s strong connection to the theatre made them develop collaboration between the Globe Theatre and the DFES. As allies they visualize his plays and make them more attractive (see ll.32-37). Their approach is very simple. A podcast of “Much Ado about Nothing” will help pupils to enjoy the theatre and start liking Shakespeare.

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They believe that every student should enjoy the benefits and that criticism is misplaced (see ll.38-45).

It is still worth studying Shakespeare because children develop a sense of “human relationships and motivation as well as language” (ll.44-45). Dr. T. Rex Gibson emphasizes this idea. After all Shakespeare is a playwright and his texts get vivid on stage (see ll.46-50).

However, not every class uses these new methods and some teachers still insist on boring classes that just provide necessary information to answer exam questions (see ll.51-53).

Evans reinforces Gibson’s statement. By using the right technique every teacher and every student could enjoy Shakespeare. His ideas have an impact on everyone, even on teenagers classified challenging. Both, literary criticism and drama should be part of an approach to Shakespeare, but it is ok to start by teaching drama (see ll.54-60).

Communications director of the National Association for the Teaching of English, Ian McNeilly, outlines the limits teachers have. They are obliged to deliver a certain amount of data and therefore aren’t free enough to create inspiring classes (see ll.61-64).

In order to help those teachers to “bridge the gap between performance and exam answers” (ll.68-69) 260 English consultants from the Globe Education Practitioners provide help. In general they have two strategies. Theatre skills help the pupil to understand the language, experience performance and, moreover, identify with the characters.

Rachel Ray is one out of many teachers that succeed teaching Shakespeare now. Children start to like Shakespeare and develop new methods to make his plays attractive. “Romeo and Juliet in rap rhythm” (l.85) is a method used by Kate Ford, head of English at Haggerston.

Despite the enjoyment pupils still study the profound message Shakespeare delivers (see ll.80-86)

Bank concludes that the change is worth working with and teachers should recreate their lessons (see ll.87-88).


Arnot and Neill are convinced that teachers should still teach Shakespeare in class because his topics are still relevant. However they try to persuade their readers of their opinion by using several techniques. The analysis will first focus on the structure and the line of argumentation, then outline the mode of presentation.

The heading already serves as an introduction. “Much Ado about Shakespeare” is an allusion to “Much Ado about Nothing”, a famous comedy, written by Shakespeare. The allusion demands basic knowledge and is a casual and humorous approach to the topic.

The subtitle conveys the general idea of the text. Experts try to find a solution to make people understand Shakespeare and therefore make use of modern technology.

The next passage can be classified as a second introduction. Wood’s personal example introduces Shakespeare and the readers can easily identify with his nostalgic memories (see ll.1-5). Nowadays his appreciation hasn’t changed and in regard of his childhood experience the readers can also find their way into Shakespeare (see ll.6-10).

However, they admit that schools face several problems. There is a lack of skilled teachers and in order to teachers and in order to teach children properly they need help (see ll.22-27). Arnot and Neill suggest several solutions. O’Hanlon, for example, offers help to understand plays (see ll.28-31).

On a bigger scale the “Time for Change” campaign and a collaboration of the DFES and the Globe fight against these problems (see ll.32-37).

On the one hand Arnot and Neill play down criticism (see ll.38-41), on the other hand they keep enumerating the positive aspects concerning Shakespeare and modern techniques, such as getting his plays on stage (see ll.42-50). Nevertheless there is one final problem.

In order to prove their approach they mention successful projects. In some British schools the new methods have already improved classes.

A quotation of Mr Banks finally serves as a conclusion. The statement, “There has never been a more exiting time to move forward the teaching of Shakespeare” (l.87) stresses the ideas of the “Time to Change” campaign and the authors’ point of view. Shakespeare is relevant today and worth teaching.

All in all the text can be structured into three main parts. The introductory part (see ll.1-15) that generally explains the problem, the second part called “Teeming with insights” (l.16) that enumerates problems and solutions and finally the last part called “Exploring performance” (l.70).

Throughout the text Arnot and Neill use quotations that support their point of view and explain possible problems (see ll.22-27). This mode of presentation reveals that the authors not only rely on their own opinion but also consider other statements.

It makes the reader believe that the article is profound and trustworthy. Experts can convey information perfectly. Despite this the tone maintains quite relaxed and casual. Rather colloquial language invites the reader to read and, more importantly, enjoy the text. “Let’s junk it” (l.15) and “do the trick” (subtitle) are just two examples.

The authors want the reader to share their opinion and therefore create this friendly atmosphere. At the end the want them to believe that Shakespeare isn’t too difficult to understand and that they should support him.

Another way of manipulating the reader is the use of personal examples. The youngster Michael Wood, for example, gives an emotional view on the topic (see ll.1-5). The “Wimpy Bar (l.3) and the illegal pint (l.4) allude to the readers’ own past and helps them to identify with the topic.

The “fantastic, life-changing experience” (l.8) represents authenticity and hybridizes emotional and serious topics. However, this also is an evaluation. Another one can be found in the second part of the text. The phrase “Even asking questions seems like heresy” (l.42) is not only a clear statement but also discourages any discussion.

The sentence “dog-eared photocopies” (l.50) ironically represents the authors’ opinion: they want modern technology to support Shakespeare’s impact. This process is a “battle” (l.39), something you have to fight for and something that is not easy to win.

The positive word field, including words such as “engaged” (l.29) and “love” (l.82) emphasize this idea and at the end the reader is convinced of the authors’ opinion. Arnot and Neill persuade their readers and introduce modern technology to understand Shakespeare. After all he is still relevant in schools.

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